When Joanne Willis moved into her Napa, Calif., home in November, she didn’t know the love that was at the heart of the home.
“The second we moved into this house we were happy here too,” says Willis.
Willis and her husband are the third owners of the house, but it wasn’t until she was exploring every inch of it that she found an old treasure hidden in the attic.
“I was surprised,” says Willis. “I couldn’t believe I had been left behind.”
In a dark corner was a chest that hadn’t seen the light of day for almost four decades.
“It’s a fantastic find,” says Willis. “I preferred this to gold. Well, maybe not, but this is pretty good.”
Willis couldn’t believe his eyes. There were hundreds of love letters written in the mid-1950s. She decided to use social media to see if she could find out who the letters belonged to.
“We had to find out who had originally owned the house, and then we went from there,” says Willis.
Did not take too long. Before she knew it, she was talking to the author’s son. He said the letters had been written by his mother Maxine Provan. She had written them to her future husband Bill over the summer holidays. The two students met their freshman semester at Bowling Green State University in Ohio. They were married a year later.
“I realized this was just a keepsake box where he kept all his love letters,” says Willis. “I was wondering if she also had one with all the reply letters.”
Because of Bill’s work, the couple moved 17 times while raising four children.
“I would have been devastated if I had left this behind in a move,” says Willis.
Willis made the hour trip from Napa to Stockton. When she arrived, there was an elderly couple outside waiting for her.
“Do you remember how big it was?” Willis asked them as he carried the chest.
Bill and Maxine welcomed it with open arms, although Bill said he couldn’t remember seeing the chest before.
“I’m surprised you haven’t missed him,” Maxine told her husband of over 65 years.
“There was no reason to look at her,” he replied. “We’ve been married for 40 years and this is when we got married.”
Bill is now 88 years old. Max 86.
“She always says I can’t believe I’m still here,” Bill said.
“I didn’t expect to be walking around here at this age,” added Maxine with a laugh.
The couple glanced quickly at Bill’s textbooks, his 1952 high school yearbook, and the stack of letters.
“It’s more or less what we expected,” Bill said. “It’s a little sentimental. I’ll read the letters, of course. They hold many memories of those days.”